Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Original Intent?

Today, we celebrate our country's founding...by blowing small holes in it around the nation.

Pat Buchanan asks this morning whether we remain a free and independent republic. Paul Craig Roberts also pens another blistering indictment of Bushism. Be sure to take a look at both.

Recently, while flipping through a copy of The American Conservative, I happened across an interesting article by James Bovard on presidential signing statements.

A signing statement is a written proclamation issued by the President that accompanies the signing of a law passed by the Congress. Presidents use such statements to set forth how they intend the executive branch of the federal government to interpret and enforce the new law. Such statements were initiated during the Monroe presidency, but exploded only during the 1980's and 1990's, the era of the Imperial Presidency.

According to Bovard, Bush has added more than 750 statements to various pieces of legislation. Bovard writes that Bush is, "the first [President] to use signing statements routinely to nullify key provisions of new laws. He perennially announces that he will not be bound by limits on his power and that he will scorn obligations to disclose how federal power is being used."

In other, the President is asserting his prerogative to set aside any statute or law that conflicts with his interpretation of the constitution.

Writing in the Boston Globe, Charlie Savage enumerates some of the laws effectively re-written by the President: "Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, 'whistle-blower' protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research."

One egregious example is the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, in which Congress forbids torture. After signing the law, a signing statement was added indicating that enforcement would be conducted "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power." In other words, the law will be binding when the President says so.

Interestingly, and I won't detail this here, the centralization of executive power has been enthusiastically endorsed by far too many Christians who purport to believe in original sin and total depravity. And so we return to the divine right of kings.

Writing of the reign of Elizabeth I, don't David Hume's comments sound remarkably like the current "conservative" view of presidential power proffered by the administration and their bootlickers at the Federalist Society? Hume writes:

It was asserted that the queen inherited both an enlarging and restraining power; by her prerogative she might set at liberty what was restrained by statute or otherwise, and by her prerogative she might restrain what was otherwise at liberty; that the royal prerogative was not to be canvassed, nor disputed, nor examined; and did not even admit of any limitation: that absolute princes, such as the sovereigns of England, were a species of divinity: that it was in vain to attempt tying the queen's hands by laws or statutes; since, by means of her dispensing power, she could loosen herself at pleasure: and that even if a clause should be annexed to a statute, excluding here dispensing power, she could first dispense with that clause and then with the statute.

Is this what Jefferson, Adams, Washington and Madison had in mind?


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